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From a Person Sitting in Darkness: New and Selected Poems

From a Person Sitting in Darkness: New and Selected Poems

by Gerald Barrax

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Product Details

Louisiana State University Press
Publication date:
Southern Messenger Poets Ser.
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Efficiency Apartment

     My sons.
sometimes I can / not name you
until this magic room is sleeping,
and the stretched out ends our lives make
curl around
and stitch you through the interstices
behind my eyes.

* * *

(And ceremonies changed us
And equaled what we became
And ceremonial words preceded us
Into flesh and spirit and aborted us
Into the ends our lives made
With marvelous cadences to tell us what we were
And would be.)

* * *

One, Two, and Three
when the room is awake and shrugs the shadows off its walls
I see the papered magic I've added
scraps left over from the ends the world made
Roger is jolly on the wall and says Hi
Hippity Hop skips under the breast of a dragon's shadow
      that burns yellow leaves in green flame
The moonmen's marbled earth
      (that I gave your names to remember me)
floats in space above the telephone
And what you drew and gave me once on a visit
      One, your seraped boy with the cactus grin
      Two, your Sopwith Camel firing four lines
             of wavery pencil rounds into the dragon's mouth
                 (I arranged it thatway to conserve the forest)

         Three's cycloptic snaggletoothed house
I call children's art when visitors ask

* * *

(Dear, lost, penultimate love
Poorer for, richer for rituals
Of birth and mortgage
We made formality of ceremony
And two or three and ten years
Was too long to live the deaths
That did us part.)

* * *

Your schoolday weather.

(Did she know the probability of rain?)

Winter mornings close the room.
She wakes you before leaving
and unthreads you from my sleep.

(Did she hear the forecast at all?)

Twelve and ½ miles and one river
is close enough to dress you in three warm apologies

for being here.

In bells and voices at noon
in the center of a cross—
                           church, funeral home and two schools—
it opens and I am imprisoned
by the shouting sons of other fathers
playing (

* * *

Did I play with you?

(We gave us One for our youth
Two for love
Three the image of me.)

Is a father with no sons
a nursery with no rimes
songs, music
roses no rings
but ashes ashes
down the hill we fell
rolling One sliding Two tumbling Three

out of the ends of our lives


I am black sheep
three boys empty

I will go hi                 (Spy in her eye)
round my base is
round my base
hidingO seekand
(find me!)

* * *

(I wed thee
I ring this with what we were
In seeming real
One in
Two seemly
Three black

* * *

Books all over the place

my little people big people
slim and fat —boys

daddy does well in school—

they hunch in bookcase caves
and a box under the table
and squat on top of the closet
in my efficient kitchen
they are a comfort these days
chatting away in my unsleeping
exorcising the square deific

After opening the doors out of your lives
    I followed the little people leading the piper

and here I am
12 ½ miles and one river

wondering:what if I kill them

will they drown or burn

and then?

But no I guess
I have already given my only begotten sons
to save them
every week
it seems
I buy at least one

* * *

Hello. Hello. Hello.

and to make him laugh I play my old game
Is that you, Sam?

I have no son by that name.

It was funnier when
they'd come home from
school and I'd keep
them waiting outside the
back door asking who
they were Is that
you Sam Harry Joe

and they'd fall all
over each other shrieking

no daddy
it's us!

Hello,Hello. hello.
what were you doing
how is school
are there grapes on the vine yet
I'll see you soon I dont know
goodnight goodnight goodnight
no tell her goodnight for me

* * *

(Even now
The cadence of our changes remains in phase.
I had only to become what I am
And you what you will not.
Hotter than a pepper sprout
I am learning to play the guitar you gave me
Trying not to smoke
So much.
Peace. Your hold forever
        And now speak.)

* * *

Here we go round
here we go round
the Supremes hover above my feet
    the 3 girls I'll never have
the telephone is sorry
the room is raining, efficiently
the room rains and rings
the ends are stitched together
One, Two and Three
                   will be fine
the fit will survive

I have made us all typical
true to myself
the nigger daddy of social statistics

(is it asleep? yes
sleeping and raining and ringing)

goodnight goodnight goodnight
Dennis Jerry Josh


This could be the way
the fire comes: God's
fine irony withholding rain.
We could wait for the comfort
of overstatement (half the Flood was tears)
such as something going out of orbit,
falling into the sun
as another kind of rain,
but where is His hand in fire
if the woods are dry?

The woods are dry.
Leaves curl, brown,
fall from God's head
and crackle underfoot like irony's laughter.
At twilight a forest burns
and the sun goes down in more splendor
than even God gave it.
Only I am its match.
My roots need rain, too,
but neither rain nor fire
tells me if it is man or god who is chained to this rock.

Meet the Author

Gerald Barrax has published four previous volumes of poetry. He is former poet-in-residence and professor of English at North Carolina State University and lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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